Africa launched an online platform on Wednesday that would enable the continent to develop its own research capacity and capability to conduct trials and develop drugs and vaccine to deal effectively with future pandemics.
Called the Clinical Trial Community (CTC) the platform is “versatile, comprehensive and accessible platform” that provides “quick and real-time visibility of African clinical trials sites, capacity and capability”.
It is touted as the first of its kind on the continent and is designed to link all relevant initiatives that support the conduct of trials. It also, among others, enables timely ethics and regulatory review; and provides country level guidelines for import or export of relevant clinical supplies and bio-specimens.
The coronavirus has not only caught the world unawares but has also exposed serious weaknesses in the global communities’ health systems and the need for greater collaboration among the nations.
CTC is a product of the Coalition for African Research and Innovation (CARI) and boasts a support of global partnership led by Johnson & Johnson, the US National institutes of Health (NIH), Wellcome, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and World Economic Forum (WEF).
According to the statement put out by the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), the platform also aims to reduce bias in funding across countries and disease areas and promote synergy and efficiency across strategic funders in the product development ecosystem.
It said the project was already underway but the global rush to come up with a diagnostics, drugs and vaccines for COVID-19 gave impetus to efforts to develop the platform for operational logistics in conducting clinical trials in Africa.
The academy further noted that the continent is improving its research capabilities as there are more highly trained local researchers working in better equipped facilities. This ensures that African countries lead and collaborate in all phases of early to late-stage clinical trials, said AAS. CTC saves on cost and time associated with landscape analysis, added the academy, and that although it will initially capture African clinical trials, the intention is to expand the community to other parts of the world.
CARI is another strategic and vital platforms conceived by African and Global partners and implemented through the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA). It is a well-funded, strongly supported and highly coordinated platform that leverages resource mobilisation for investment. It also undertakes strategic advocacy to harness leadership and fosters systematic collaboration to achieve outcomes that would help more Africans lead better lives sooner.
To develop a credible clinical trials database, CTC has roped in major players including the World Health Organization (WHO) created African Vaccine Regulatory Forum (AVAREF), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), Pan African Clinical Trials Registry (PACTR), the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi).
Prof Tom Kariuki, Director of Programmes/AESA Director, African Academy of Sciences (AAS) said during the announcement of the CTC: “The incredible diversity in Africa is unlike anywhere else in the world. The continent is made up of many cultures and ethnic groups whose genetic makeup impact clinical trial outcomes. It is very important that more trials are conducted on African soil”.
Unfortunately, Kariuki added, that the process of finding experienced investigators, trial centres/sites, existing and future trials, and determining the in-country processes and regulations to be followed to achieve correct regulatory approvals has been very difficult to do. He said the CTC platform will provide researchers and possible funders with a comprehensive source of intelligence on country-level clinical trial capabilities and processes which will aid in decision making.”
Added Dirk Gille, Vice President, R&D Capacity Development Leader, and Global Public Health at Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V.: “The Clinical Trials Community platform will be an incredibly valuable tool in the successful execution of clinical trials in Africa. Bringing together essential information on clinical trial site capabilities, coupled with regional disease burden, will help enable the implementation of trials in the right centres and regions”.
He said this will also enable the scientists to connect through the platform and will further drive efficiencies and create opportunities. Ultimately, he said, this should contribute to an increase in the number of clinical trials on the continent and, in time, accelerate access to innovative medicines for patients in Africa and around the world.
“Sustained efforts to expedite development of clinical interventions against diseases rampant in Africa requires good capacity and networking of scientists and their trial sites. CTC couldn’t have been started at a better time when the world is challenged by epidemics on top of the high infectious diseases and rising non-communicable disease burden in Africa. The CTC will make African scientists and their sites more visible and reachable for concerted response in development of clinical interventions the continent and the world urgently need,” said Dr Thomas Nyirenda, EDTCP Strategic Partnerships & Capacity Development Manager. Nyirenda also chairs the CTC Advisory Committee providing strategic guidance to the AESA programme.
Diadié Maiga, the Regional Vaccine Regulation Officer at AVAREF said there has been noticeable gap in the availability of information related to trial sponsors and triallists, adding this vital in ensuring clinical trials occur and that new participants are recruited.
“By showcasing the regulatory and ethical requirements, approval processes, timelines, and guidelines for conducting trials in the different countries across the continent, the CTC is a value add to the landscape that will promote knowledge sharing, awareness, trust, confidence and hopefully participation in clinical trials for the ultimate benefit of African people,”
In reacting to the launch of the platform, chief science Advisor, Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Nicaise Ndembi said: “As key partners of the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trial (CONCVACT) consortium, the Africa CDC aims to ensure that sufficient data is generated on the safety and efficacy of the most promising vaccine candidates for the African population. So once vaccines are formally approved, they can be rolled out in Africa with confidence about their impact. The overlaid trial sites, country regulatory processes, and diseases burden data on display on the African map provided on the CTC platform will set the criteria for trial site selection guidance to potential clinical trial sponsors.”
Said Dr Jenniffer Mabuka, CTC Consultant: “The CTC and partners are committed to supporting, enabling and accelerating investment in clinical and translational research capacity in Africa to effectively respond to disease outbreaks, reduce preventable deaths, strengthen productivity, improve quality of life, and to address countries public health needs. The recent outbreak of Covid-19 has shown us how important this type of collaboration really is.”
To learn more about the clinical trials taking place in Africa on the CTC online portal, click on: https://www.ctc.africa/